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Costly Habits: What $1.5 Trillion Looks Like

By Kyle Marshall | June 4, 2014 | Healthy Lifestyle, Industry Perspectives

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All the cheeseburgers, cigarettes and channel-surfing Americans enjoy certainly take their toll: Unhealthy lifestyles account for up to 40% of all deaths in the U.S.

As if that’s not enough, think about the financial toll. Overall, treating preventable diseases caused by unhealthy habits costs $1.5 trillion annually. Yes, you read that correctly. $1.5 trillion. That’s three times the nation’s entire defense budget. Or enough to buy 7.4 million homes at the median home price. The staggering figure is highlighted at our Let’s Talk Cost site.

Chronic conditions caused by unhealthy habits have real costs on medical bills, which are the major driver behind health insurance premiums. In fact, more than 75% of our health care costs as a nation come from people with chronic conditions.

Behaviors like overeating, smoking, drinking too much and lack of exercise have profound effects on our health and our financial well-being. More than half of us don’t get the exercise we need, and almost one in five adults smoke.


A closer look at how smoking affects medical costs

A few weeks ago, we shared an infographic about the costs of smoking. The infographic said “Smoking kills more than illegal drugs+alcohol+traffic accidents+firearms. Combined. And we all pay the medical bill.”

Many of you shared in the comments that you didn’t believe the statistics. You’re right to be skeptical. We were too. But the facts speak for themselves.

Even though tobacco-use rates have decreased, it still causes about 435,000 deaths every year. That’s more than twice as many people as the 174,000 who die as a result of illegal drug and alcohol use, firearms and traffic accidents.

Additionally, treating the diseases caused by smoking, such as cancer, heart disease and lung disease, costs more than $130 billion in medical costs every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond the medical costs of smoking, the total costs add up to more than $289 billion each year from lost productivity and premature deaths.

And that’s the cost for just one unhealthy behavior. The CDC also reports that excessive alcohol consumption costs an average of $223 billion each year, and medical costs linked to obesity are estimated at $147 billion annually.

LTC_Facebook_UL-v16-2-14Breaking Unhealthy Habits in North Carolina

When we published the smoking infographic, a lot of North Carolinians shared that they had successfully quit smoking. Some even said they had shared the infogaphic with loved ones to help convince them to quit.

That type of encouragement is exactly what we need to change behavior. At BCBSNC, we want to help our customers live healthier lives. That’s why we offer programs like these:

We know more is happening across the state. We want to hear your stories. Have you overcome an unhealthy habit? Have you motivated a family member to get healthy? Have you seen your health care costs impacted as a result of getting healthy? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below, send us a post on Facebook or share your story on Twitter with the hashtag #letstalkcost.